NASCAR Cup Teams Road Racing at The Glen from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
After rain delayed and shortened the race last weekend at Pocono, the hope is for no more rain this weekend even though it did rain between the practice sessions on Friday and qualifying on Saturday. There is nothing more frustrating for the drivers and their teams than to have the added stress of having to include rain in their strategy for qualifying as well race day. Even though rain did affect all of them in the same way, it wasn’t the only thing having an effect on the way all of the teams approached the race for this weekend.

Now why would I say something like that? After all, it seems there is the possibility of rain just about every weekend and the Cup teams should be able to handle that adversity if for no other reason than these drivers are called the “best drivers in the world.”

Well… that is an interesting question and I am sure there are several that would answer it with varying degrees of intensity and understanding. There is no doubt in this fan’s mind that the Cup drivers are some of the best in the world and they do manage to overcome adversity after adversity week in and week out. I am often amazed out how they manage to take on the challenges they face head-on and often overcome them in grand fashion.

Unfortunately, rain isn’t the only thing affecting the way they approach the race at The Glen this weekend. Just to mention two of them are the fact that the track has been repaved since the last time they competed at Watkins Glen and Goodyear brought tires with a harder compound to compensate for the new surface. Add it all together and you find the challenge is just a bit different this time than it was last time.

One thing that stands out to this fan is how the lap times got faster after a few laps rather than dropping off after the first lap or two. That should make a difference in how the teams approach the strategy for tire wear during the race but, because of the rain before qualifying, no one really knows what the grip will be like as the race progresses. As the track rubbers up will the grip get better or will it get worse – that is one of the main questions that won’t be answered until the race progresses. That will mean extra pressure on the crew chiefs and the drivers. With that unknown, they are possibly going to have to adjust on the fly throughout the race. Everyone already knows that is nothing new but, with the opportunities dwindling for those with no wins but a chance to make the Chase, it does become one of the more important factors to be considered for this race at The Glen.

It was good to hear from Dale Jr. this weekend and get a better understanding of where he is in his healing process and also get a better understanding of where his head is at. To this fan, it seems he is in a very good spot even though still facing at least two more races over the next three weeks of not being in his race car. He did admit he is getting impatient but also willing to take it as it comes and as his doctors recommend. According to the plan for the #88 Hendrick team, Jeff Gordon is supposed to substitute for Dale Jr. for the next two races. For those that may not have heard, that means The Glen this weekend and Bristol in two weeks.

Speaking of Jeff Gordon, from this fan’s view he can’t be happy with the results he has had over the last two races while being in the seat of the #88 Hendrick Chevy. I just can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a four time Champion to not be performing as some may have hoped, including himself. He hasn’t done badly but I am sure he would have liked to have performed better at two of his best tracks, Indy and Pocono. In his defense, at least from this fan’s view, last weekend at Pocono he worked hard all race and finally got good track position which could have given him a very good finish. As it turned out, on that very same restart his seatbelt came loose and he had to drop back as he tried to get it refastened. In the meantime, he lost a bunch of spots which he was not able to recover from which resulted in a poor finish in the rain shortened race.

As a long time fan of Jeff Gordon, it is my hope he gets a couple of good finishes in these next two races while filling in for Dale Jr. It may be a stretch to hope for a win but top five finishes wouldn’t be unwelcome surprises. I’ll even go further and say a win at either The Glen or Bristol would be a surprise to many but not out of the realm of possibilities when it comes to Jeff’s capabilities. Come to think of it, I’d still like to see one or both of these next two races come down to a race between him and Tony Stewart. As a fan of both, I just think it would be very interesting to see even though probably not too likely.

Carl Edwards will start on the pole Sunday afternoon and that means he made a clean sweep of the poles for the road courses this season. Starting on the pole and having the advantage of pit selection always makes a difference every weekend but starting on the pole does not mean the day will end with a checkered flag and a trophy. Carl knows it, I know it and many of you know it – there is a lot of competition looking for that same flag and trophy so his job will not be easy. Some of his competition is coming from his own teammates and some of it from some very good road racers in the field as well.

Some of those Carl will have to fend off are known names like AJ Allmendinger, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Bush along with others. I don’t think it does any damage to include Chase Elliott as one of those even though he is basically a rookie. Some of the lesser known names but good road racers also are names like Michael McDowell, Casey Mears and Regan Smith. Any one of these could win and some need a win to lock themselves into the Chase. I think it just remains to be seen how some of these finish when the day is done.

I remember the “old days” which really weren’t all that long ago. Those were the days when there were only a few considered as ones to come away with the win at a road course. Those days are gone and the competition has greatly increased along with the number of those that can come away with a win. Whichever way the checkered flag falls this weekend, I really believe this is going to be an unforgettable race at The Glen…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August XX, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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